CINCINNATI (AP) — A prosecutor told jurors Thursday that the 2015 police shooting of a black unarmed motorist in Cincinnati was “clearly a murder,” while the defense attorney called the shooting justified because the white officer shot “to stop the threat.”
Ray Tensing, 27, a former University of Cincinnati officer, is on trial for a second time on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of Sam DuBose, 43, during a traffic stop. A jury last November was unable to reach a verdict on either charge.
The case is among others around the United States that have raised attention in recent years to how police respond to black people. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
After opening statements, Tensing sighed, bit his lip and looked down several times while a video of the traffic stop captured by Tensing’s body-worn camera played for the jury.
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The first prosecution witness was a police supervisor who told jurors that Tensing purposely activated his camera to capture that video. Under questioning by Tensing attorney Stewart Mathews, the supervisor agreed that an officer who was planning to commit a murder probably wouldn’t have done that.
The prosecution team was revamped for the second trial, while Mathews again leads Tensing’s defense.
Mathews said in his opening statement that Tensing’s arm was stuck inside the vehicle and he feared for his life as DuBose tried to drive away. He also emphasized how quickly everything unfolded, saying the entire case turns on actions within a 3-second span.
“It’s just phenomenal how much can happen in that short a period,” he said.
Assistant Prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid said evidence, including body camera video, will show Tensing wasn’t trapped. But DeGraffenreid said Tensing’s arm shouldn’t have been in the car.
“He forgot and didn’t use his training,” she said. Officers are taught not to reach inside a car to try to take a motorist’s keys, she said.
Mathews agreed that Tensing made a mistake by reaching into the car. But he asserted that DuBose used his left arm to pin Tensing’s left arm against the car’s windowsill and steering wheel.
DeGraffenreid gave a terse 10-minute opening to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court jury of nine whites and three blacks that was seated Wednesday.
Her approach differed significantly from the one her boss, Prosecutor Joe Deters, took during Tensing’s first trial. Deters’ opening lasted less than 15 minutes, but he provided more details and sharply accused Tensing of telling lies.
DeGraffenreid was lower key. She and Seth Tieger took over the case in January when Deters removed himself and his two assistants in the first trial to focus on a serial killer’s resentencing.
DeGraffenreid ended by asking jurors to convict Tensing of both charges. Usually, jurors in such cases are instructed to consider the lesser charge only if they cannot reach a decision on the murder charge.
The specific juror instructions will be given after testimony concludes.
Mathews used about 30 minutes to deliver his opening statements during Tensing’s first trial and again on Thursday.
Mathews said DuBose “wouldn’t have ended up shot” if he had complied with Tensing’s orders and hadn’t attempted to flee. Mathews also said that DuBose had acted suspiciously, possibly because of marijuana later found in his car that could have led to a felony charge.